A Memorable Place
Metropolis is a super place
By John L. Flynn
SPECIAL TO THE SUN
Forget Smallville, the fictional home of Jonathan and Martha Kent and their son Clark -- otherwise known as Superman. Residents of Metropolis, Ill., want visitors to think of their town as the legendary residence of Kal-El, the last son of Krypton.
An avid fan of comic books, I spent most of my childhood in the Chicago suburbs reading about the Man of Steel, and had always assumed that Superman was found by the Kent family in an Illinois cornfield and raised near where I grew up. As children, we tend to think the world is smaller than it really is, and that everything of importance happens just over the rainbow in the next county.
At age 18, with my Superman comics packed away among my other childhood memories, I went off to college, still convinced that my hero lived nearby.
I returned to Chicago nearly 30 years later, and looking through those treasured old comics, I determined to find Superman's home.
I drove south and, hundreds of miles later, spied a billboard with the image of Superman pointing the way to downtown Metropolis. Other images of my childhood hero could be found all around this town of less than 7,000 residents; the most impressive is a 15-foot bronze statue in the town square, unveiled in 1993 during the town's 15th annual Superman Celebration.
The monument stands in front of the courthouse, on Superman Square. Nearby is the Super Museum, run by the Massac County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism. Inside are displays of Superman collectibles and artifacts from around the world. Included in the 60-year-old collection are life-size figures of Superman characters Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Lex Luthor and, of course, Clark Kent and Superman.
There are also original movie props and film production miniatures, antique toy displays, comic books and more. The museum's gift store has one of the largest selections of Superman merchandise this side of Krypton. I bought a sky-blue T-shirt with the Superman logo, and when I slipped it on, I felt as if I were 10 years old again.
Each year during the second week in June, Metropolis holds its annual Superman Celebration. Most of the activities reflect the simple traditions of small-town America.
Events include a four-mile run through town, a 30-mile bicycle tour of Massac County, an arm-wrestling tournament, a children's costume pageant and an amateur theatrical production of a Superman drama. Superman always drops in to sign autographs and kiss babies.
Metropolis, Ill., helped me regain that sense of awe and wonder that we have as children, when we take that first flight of fantasy and believe that our heroes live next door.
John L. Flynn lives in Towson.
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